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Learning to love asparagus

By Jeff Wilkin
Tuesday, June 10, 2014

It seems my friend Betsy is always in a culinary mood.

When I visit, she is often trying to fatten me up. These days, that does not take much.

Betsy — she’s Betsy Sandberg, who once worked at The Daily Gazette as education reporter — is bullish on fresh fruits and vegetables. She’s got a massive garden on the side of her Niskayuna home, and tomatoes, carrots and onions are all in the ground.

Asparagus is the current crop, and I was recently persuaded to try a few prosciutto-wrapped asparagus spears.

Now, I’ve never been an asparagus fan. I’ve always found the long greens kind of tough and sort of tasteless. But Betsy has persuaded asparagus — with assists from cheese and prosciutto — to become a tasty little dish.

“I love fresh-picked asparagus,” she tells me. “The sandy loam around Schenectady is perfect for it. And this is a perfect appetizer, although I must admit I have just had this for breakfast, lunch or dinner.”

Asparagus for breakfast? Not sure if these spears will ever replace raisin bran for me, but I can see the wisdom of an asparagus lunch or dinner. Lot of vitamins in those greens.

“Lightly steam your asparagus,” Betsy advises. “Can’t give you a time on this because it all depends on how thick the spears are. Thick stems should take two minutes. Medium just less than a minute.”

The oven is also in on the action. “Turn your oven on to whatever temperature you might be cooking something else,” Betsy says. “Three hundred and fifty degrees is fine. But it can be hotter. It just won’t take as long.”

The method involves drizzling some olive oil in a baking pan that can fit all the asparagus in a single layer.

“I love cheese and have tried many different ones with this recipe,” the chef told me. “I have found the best cheese for this is Gouda. Slice in thin strips. Wrap the cheese and asparagus with slices of prosciutto.”

The amount of prosciutto will depend on how big your asparagus is. And if you can’t eat cheese, Betsy say to just skip it. “Just wrap a few asparagus with prosciutto.”

The wrapped asparagus can also get a little butter on top.

“Put them in the oven until the cheese and the fat on the prosciutto melt,” Betsy tells me. “Or if you like crispy, until spear tips turn brown.”

Not that I need any more weight, but I’m thinking these asparagus wraps would look and taste great with a little barbecued chicken and a lot of mashed potatoes.

If I really want to lose a few pounds, I might have to stop visiting Betsy.

 
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